December 14, 2007 (Edited: May 19, 2008)

Photographs

Chapter Summary: Imaii Hotaru has been away from Japan for 7 years. Guess who turns up at her doorstep?

Chapter 1

Imaii Hotaru bowed as a man with small eyes, crooked nose and yellow skin wearing a business suit thanked her.

"Arigato Imaii-san. We will be sure to send you the papers by Monday." He too bowed before he exited the room.

Hotaru, unused to being addressed as such, flinched inwardly. Seven years took a lot from a person, including the comfort of using cultural formalities, especially when one spends time in a culture with less formality.

Hotaru inhaled, thinking about her day's work, then blinked as a voice suddenly spoke.

"It's 5:00 Miss Hotaru." It was Sam, her electronic assistant.

"Oh. Arigato, Sam." The face on her screen, previously sporting blond hair and blue eyes, as it was programmed to normally do, suddenly had small eyes and short black hair. And then smiled at Hotaru.

"Don't forget to transfer your researched files before you go Miss Hotaru. And Miss Anna reminds you of a meeting on Friday, at 6:00 in the evening."

Hotaru nodded as she moved folders and placed unneeded papers in a shredder, all the while trying to memorize the schedule she had on her head.

For the level of intelligence Hotaru has, one would think she would be the type who never forgets anything. But alas, Hotaru, being Hotaru, is prone to forget things she deemed less important than her current work. Given that she forgets meetings with clients, it's still no surprise that she never runs out of them. For who else can keep up with the great Hotaru Imaii? None, of course. At least, that's what Hotaru believes. And so shall we.

Hotaru finished up clearing her desk and as she was getting her coat and bag, Sam spoke again.

"Miss Hotaru, what shall I do with the flowers?" Sam had reverted back to his usual blond appearance.

Hotaru paused and glanced at the enormous bouquet of flowers that sat on the table on the side. She almost forgot about the flowers Joe Fields, one of her more persistent "suitors", sent her earlier that day. With an exasperated breath, she decided to bring the flowers home for once. Her kitchen counter at home could use a new set of fresh flowers.

"Goodbye Miss Hotaru. Please be careful on your way home."

"Thank you Sam. Goodbye." Hotaru headed for the elevator.

--

As Hotaru emerged from the elevator with a customized bag (with a more customized laptop inside) and the huge bouquet of flowers, a girl working as an intern for one of her people walked up to her.

"Miss Hotaru, someone is here to s—"

"Ah! My beautiful Hotaru!"

Hotaru stopped but, being who she was, showed no reaction whatsoever save for the small smile and nod she gave the intern, and the brief glance she gave to the unwanted visitor.

Standing there exuding an overflowing sense of confidence and arrogance was Joe Fields. Neat and sparkling from top to bottom, yet conveying a sense of mischief or, as if he just did something bad, with his eyes and smile, Joe Fields is easily the most sought after bachelor in the city.

Joe Fields gave Hotaru a grin and upon noticing the bouquet of flowers in Hotaru's hand, stopped short and said, "So I'm finally getting somewhere." And gave her a wink.

Hotaru inwardly rolled her eyes and thought she could not have picked a worse time to decide to bring home the flowers he sent. She just looked at him and said, "Mr. Fields, if you need anything you could just leave a message and Sam will send it to me."

She was about to walk off when Joe Fields took a step closer to her and said in a voice that Hotaru thought was meant to entice and seduce her but made her irritable instead, "Need? Oh you know very well what, or who I need Hotaru."

Then he took another step closer and lowered his voice, probably thinking it made him sound sexy, "How about you spend the night at my mansion? We could, you know, get to know each other." His eyes glazed as his mind went off to a place, which Hotaru had no intention of even thinking about. Fortunately, Joe Fields had this weird tendency to go into a daydream even in the most important of times. And Hotaru took this chance to walk off into freedom.

Even though Hotaru clearly disliked the man, his company is one of the oldest clients Hotaru has. His father is one of the earlier buyers of her inventions and was one of the reasons why she is where she is now. So she considered Joe Fields a very lucky man.

Hotaru was stepping through the door when suddenly a puppy came up to her and started jumping up and down, barking happily at her.

Hotaru looked at the puppy wagging it's tail excitedly.

A puppy. In the city. Whose puppy is this?

Hotaru looked around and across the street, but no one seemed to be looking for a puppy. She looked back down at the puppy, which had sat down on the ground, looking up at her with her tongue out, wagging her tail, as if expecting something from her.

For a moment Hotaru and the puppy stared at each other.

Then Hotaru turned, stepping away from the puppy and went to walk on down the street to where her car was parked.

She glanced behind her and was relieved to find that the puppy didn't follow her.

--

As Hotaru parked her car in her garage, automatic lights came on and Sam greeted her on a TV screen beside the door to her house.

"Welcome home Miss Hotaru."

Hotaru turned off the engine, picked her things and went inside.

"Miss Hotaru, somebody went by looking for you. He left a message." Sam told her.

"Okay, let me see it." Hotaru set the flowers' on the sink, hoping it wasn't from a lunatic by the name of Joe Fields.

The screen played the message while Hotaru set up her laptop on the table.

"Good… morning Hotaru" said the voice uncertainly. "How are you?"

The voice made Hotaru stop.

The message played on. "I'm sorry for not calling before I showed up here, but I wanted to surprise you. I was hoping you'd be home when I dropped by, but apparently you aren't. So I decided to leave this message when the computer asked me."

That voice… Hotaru looked up at the screen abruptly and, sure enough, there was the smiling face of a blond-haired, four-eyed Yuu, who was looking quite uncertain at the camera.

"I hope you're doing well. If it's all right, I think it would be great to be able to catch up on things. I'm not the only one who's here … but don't worry I'll be back another day, and I'll be sure to call you ahead of time so my visit wouldn't be so fruitless. Or you can call me if you want," a number flashed through the screen.

Hotaru stared at the screen.

"Well, till then Hotaru. Have a good day." With a smile and a wave, the message ended.

Hotaru was still staring at the screen long after the message was finished.

She can't believe he was here. After seven years…

Sure, she kept in touch with her friends by mail, but they never saw each other except through videos, web cams, and pictures.

He said he's not the only one here… Who else?

Just then, her phone rang, startling her.

She blinked as she heard the computer answer the phone for her. She forgot to switch off the command.

"HOTARUUUUUUU!" came a loud scream.

Hotaru smiled.

"Guess what Hotaruuuu!" the girl on the other end giggled.

"Don't be so loud, Mikan." Hotaru said picking up the phone.

"Oh Hotaruuuuu! You're home!" said a surprised Mikan. Then she got excited even more, if one could imagine that. "Guess where Yuu and I are Hotaru!"

Hotaru smiled inwardly at the familiar voice.

"I just saw Yuu's message when he came by."

"Oh…" Mikan's voice seemed to lose energy. "Well… aren't you glad Hotaru?"

Hotaru rolled her eyes "I'm not like you. I don't squeal whenever I'm happy."

Mikan, having known Hotaru since they were kids, immediately reverted back to excitement. "So when do you want us over? I'm really, really, really excited Hotaru! I can't wait to see you!"

"I don't have work tomorrow."

"Really? Oh really, really, REALLYYY?? Oh that's so great Hotaru! Okay, I'll tell Yuu! We'll be there before lunch, is that okay Hotaru? Oh no…" Hotaru heard a beeping sound which sounded a lot like a smoke alarm in the background and then a whole lot of clattering and then, "Wait Hotaru, I have to go! We'll see you tomorrow!!" and Mikan was gone.

Hotaru took a deep breath. It was just like Mikan to get in trouble just like that. Hotaru wondered what could have happened but was not worried for she knew that if Mikan had a knack for getting into trouble, she also had a knack of getting out of them unhurt.

Hotaru smiled at the thought that both of her friends were here. It has been too long since they last got together. It gives her a nice break from work.

She looked at her clock and saw that it was only a quarter before six. She felt like going out for dinner. She smiled a teeny-weeny smile. She wasn't too good of a cook and she was feeling rather choosy tonight.

--

Hotaru decided to walk to clear her head a little, having experienced high levels of stress and excitement (though she would never say so out loud) in such a short period of time. Luckily, she was not too far from downtown.

Still dressed in her semi-formal work suit, Hotaru put on a scarf and a coat. It wasn't freezing outside, but Hotaru didn't like the cold.

Carrying her purse which double functioned as a purse, and an electric organizer (if you look at it closely, it had buttons on it and a hole from which it projected a screen of her planner) that can also be used as a communication device, Hotaru stepped out onto her driveway and commanded Sam to secure the locks.

Her house wasn't really big, but it was equipped with the most advanced technology there is. Of course, it didn't cost as much as it should have when paying to have them installed. She built most of it herself and had a bit of help setting and wiring it around the house. The house itself used to be her parents' house, which she had renovated to accommodate her lifestyle.

As Hotaru stepped on her driveway, she imagined what Mikan would say once she's been inside her house. And as she did so, a bark jarred her out of her musing, and almost made her jump.

Almost.

She turned, and was only slightly surprised that the same puppy she saw earlier was there on the other side of the street. This time, however, the puppy was barking from a leash that a person wearing a cap talking on his cell phone was loosely holding.

The puppy excitedly barked at her again, wagging its tail, and then suddenly made a run in her direction, pulling the leash so suddenly that the leash slipped out of the owner's hand.

"Hey!" The owner shouted to the puppy.

The puppy crossed the street and ran up to her, once again jumping up and down and barking at her happily.

The owner got off his phone and quickly crossed the street to Hotaru's driveway.

The puppy seemed to get more excited, and barked even louder.

"Bad doggie, bad doggie." He reprimanded the puppy, crouching down to it.

But the puppy didn't seem to mind and kept on barking happily at Hotaru.

He took hold of the puppy's leash and stood up.

"I'm so sorry. It's the first time she ever did that so I wasn't expecting her to go chasing any… one…"

Hotaru wondered why he slowed down speaking and as she looked up at him, her pulse quickened and her eyes widened as she saw just exactly why.


Edited: May 19, 2008
Author's Note:

Well, I really liked this story and because I could not continue writing without editing the first few chapters I uploaded, I decide to edit it while on vacation here in Los Angeles, CA.

I added a new character, re-wrote quite a bit of the story while retaining the original plot, and basically just polished it as best as I could in one day. I have gotten quite a bit of emails telling me to continue this fic, and because I originally wanted to finish it but got sidelined by school and a lot of other matters, I decided to start editing and try to continue on with it. It may be the thing to get me going.

I do terribly miss writing, and I hope that all of you will like the revision I made. I tried to make it better than it was, so tell me what you think. )

Lots of love,
Autumn Willow (a.k.a. Chanteusse)